Fostering financial literacy


Manitoba programs aimed at infusing learning about money into broader education

It wasn’t the teacher’s idea.

Rather what would turn out to be an award-winning program, recognized for promoting financial literacy, stemmed from the students themselves.

“The kids were moaning about how broke they were, and I asked them what they could do about it,” says vice-principal Kim Dudek, at John Pritchard School.

Previously a teacher at Murdoch MacKay Collegiate, Dudek was facilitating the Indigenous academic achievement program in the fall of 2021, and looking for direction from students.

With the holiday season weeks away, money was on their mind. Notably, they didn’t have any and wanted to find some to purchase gifts for friends and family.

“So, we took that idea on a journey,” Dudek says.

That path led students to launch a beadwork business and set up a trading post at school to sell their goods, which was recognized this year by the Bank of Canada Museum, receiving its Award for Excellence in Teaching Economics.

The innovative program highlights the many efforts by Canadian educators to foster financial literacy for children and youth.

Certainly, learning about money should be front and centre this November, which is Financial Literacy Month.

And it couldn’t be more prescient with many households struggling with high inflation and rising interest rates among many other money concerns, including saving for retirement.

“Financial literacy is more essential today than ever before simply because of the growing complexity and volume of money decisions we must make every day,” says Gary Rabbior, president of the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE) in Toronto.

A recent TD survey suggests parents recognize what’s at stake with 60 per cent fearing for their kids’ financial future and nearly nine-in-10 agreeing that future would improve if their children started learning about money sooner than later.

Increasingly, kids are learning earlier at school, but a lot of work remains to be done to integrate financial learning more broadly into curricula, Rabbior says.

CFEE has been leading the charge, including partnering with the province to offer, a resource for teachers to teach financial literacy.

In fact, there is no shortage of financial literacy resources in Canada.

Most financial institutions have initiatives. So too do the federal and provincial governments.

Even the Bank of Canada has many resources for teachers and parents offering through its museum in Ottawa.

“We are trying to provide kids with the building blocks, starting at kindergarten and Grade 1 all the way up to high school,” Carolyn Cook, the Bank of Canada Museum’s interpretation and outreach manager.

Accessible online, resources include printable worksheets starting with activities for young children to identify coins and banknotes. For older students, the museum has activities focused on topics like inflation, including one involving the Barenaked Ladies song ‘If I had a $1,000,000’ to understand how prices rise over time.

Cook adds the museum’s overarching goal is promoting financial literacy because Canada’s central bank recognizes its importance not just for individuals.

“If you have the right skills and knowledge, you make better decisions for yourself, your family and your community overall.”

While educators are critical to helping kids learn about money, parents are equally so, says Sarah Stachiw, the community outreach manager with licensed insolvency trustee firm, Bromwich + Smith in Calgary.

“It’s that whole ‘monkey see; monkey do thing;’ kids are going to follow mom and dad’s actions.”

John Pritchard School vice-principal Kim Dudek and student James Cook work together on a vinyl press, which is part of a micro-business project to teach kids about money and business.

She further notes Bromwich + Smith recently provided Canadian parents with tips to help children learn about money at any age.

All too often, the licensed insolvency trustee sees the negative effects of a lack of money knowledge once individuals reach adulthood and are at the brink of bankruptcy.

In turn, not all financial education can and should happen at home, especially if parents are not equipped to do it because they haven’t had much education on this front themselves, she says.

It’s often incumbent upon teachers to incorporate economic education in the classroom, and they can look to organizations like CPA (Chartered Professional Accountants) Canada for help.

Winnipeg accountant Heather Glor is among CPA’s volunteers working with high schools, providing presentations in-person and virtually on how to budget, set financial goals and recognize the differences between good and bad debt.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is for “a teacher to recognize that there is a financial literacy opportunity at hand, and then know that CPA Canada can help,” she says.

“That said, word is slowly getting out that we offer this.”

Regardless of who provides it, the most impactful financial literacy initiatives are those where kids take the reins, Dudek says.

That’s what made the award-winning program she helped bring about so successful.

“They led all the way.”

She notes that students had to navigate problems largely on their own, including figuring out a tap payment system for the trading post.

All their work indeed paid off.

The students exceeded their goals, leaving them to decide what to do with the additional profits.

“That led to conversation around the Indigenous practice of ‘giveaway,’” she says, adding students decided to donate the extra money to the North Point Douglas Women’s Centre.

Dudek argues that, profits aside, the program’s greatest impact was that it sparked the students’ desire to learn and do more.

“The following year, right from the get-go, they were like, ‘What are we going to do for the trading post?’”

By: Joel Schlesinger

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